As we age, we become increasingly susceptible to health threats such as cancer, autoimmunity, and infections (Pera 2015; Agarwal 2010; Franceschi 2014). One important cause of this vulnerability is immune senescence—the insidious deterioration of immune system function that occurs during aging (Goronzy 2013; Aw 2007; Franceschi 2014; Pera 2015).
Over time, our ability to fend off bacteria and viruses diminishes, our response to vaccinations weakens, and critical anti-cancer defenders called natural killer (NK) cells become increasingly impaired. At the same time, smoldering, persistent inflammation runs rampant in our aging bodies (Mekker 2012; Franceschi 2014; Pera 2015; Mitchell 2010). Our immune cell diversity declines as well during aging, reducing our defense against novel pathogens. These changes are all due in part to immune senescence (Zhang 2016; Candore 2008; Agarwal 2010; Muller 2013; Maijo 2014).
Scientists are studying various methods for countering the detrimental effects of aging on immune function. One approach that has garnered considerable interest is young stem-cell mobilized plasma transfusions. Early studies suggested that joining the circulatory systems of young and old mice reversed some age-related changes in older mice, leading to the assumption that young blood contained anti-aging factors responsible for these benefits. Newer research suggests old blood may contain pro-aging factors whose concentrations are diluted by young-blood transfusions (Rebo 2016; Conboy 2005; Villeda 2011; Villeda 2014). Currently, studies are underway to determine if young blood transfusions or elimination of pro-aging factors in old blood can bolster the function of aging human immune systems and promote longevity (Karmazin 2016; Sha 2016). More advanced studies using stem cell mobilized plasma proteins and immune factors are being planned.
One trailblazing physician-scientist in South Florida, Dipnarine Maharaj, MD, who specializes in stem cell transplantation and research, has explored the potential of using granulocyte-colony stimulating factor to activate immune stem cells and combat immune senescence (Maharaj 2014). Life Extension is engaged in funding cutting-edge research of this nature, as it provides crucial insights into the intricate biology that underlies age-related immune decline and may clarify methods aging individuals can use to circumvent the ravages of immune senescence.
Another intriguing intervention for bolstering immune function in advancing age is the common over-the-counter heartburn medicine cimetidine. This drug has overlooked immune-enhancing properties and may protect against a number of cancers. Also, results from animal studies indicate cimetidine enhances immune response to antiviral vaccines (Pantziarka 2014; Wang 2008) and may be used on a short-term basis to bolster immune defenses.
Few people are aware that a common virus can also contribute to immune senescence. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) lingers in a latent state in a significant portion of the population. This means that you could harbor this virus and not even know it. Latent CMV infection may shift the balance of immune cells toward memory T cells specialized for CMV and away from naïve immune cells that combat novel pathogens (Derhovanessian 2010). Also, CMV infection has been associated with numerous diseases, including deadly glioblastoma brain cancer. Fortunately, interventions exist that may help offset the immune compromise caused by latent CMV infection. Enzymatically modified rice bran, for example, may help reduce CMV burden and mitigate the consequences of latent infection (Ghosh 2010; Ray 2013).
In addition, a variety of natural interventions may slow or potentially reverse the course of immune senescence. Evidence from clinical and preclinical studies indicates that natural products such as reishi mushroom, cistanche, and pu-erh tea possess potent immune-modulating properties that can be harnessed to deter immune senescence (Yonei 2011; Batra 2013; Wachtel-Galor 2011; Kladar 2015; Chu 2011).
Lifestyle improvements including regular exercise, stress management, adequate sleep, and an anti-inflammatory eating pattern (such as the Mediterranean diet) can also suppress chronic inflammation and support the immune system (Simpson 2015; Ganz 2012; Witek-Janusek 2008; Carlson 2007; Oliviero 2015; Mena 2009). Though requiring more dedication, caloric restriction has been shown to improve immune cell function and promote longevity (Ahmed 2009; Ravussin 2015).
This protocol will explain important aspects of the immune system and the roles of key immune cells. In particular, you will gain valuable insights into how aging accelerates immune senescence, and how positive lifestyle changes can counter these effects. This protocol will also reveal exciting new information about a variety of immune-enhancing natural products and nutrients that may help you maintain youthful immune system function into advancing age.